The 19th of November 2011 saw us visit our first Erotica show at Olympia, London. Being our first visit our expectations of what to expect were based on the website (more of this later) and the comments of visitors to the show day before that had been posted on FaceBook. Reports of the show were decidedly mixed which is hardly surprising considering the range of visitors from consumers to those involved in the adult industry.
The Erotica website was not very enlightening as to the delights available to visitors and lacked updates in the run up to the show. With no floor plan and a list of exhibitors which seemed to lag behind those actually attending we were very unsure of what would greet us on our arrival. The first thing of course was the entry fee – £30 each! With only three hours left before the show was to shut we were concerned that we might have to return the next day to cover the whole show at a total cost of £120 for the two of us.
There are many ways to travel across London; Taxi, bus, even rickshaw, but because previous experience had shown us that the underground was cheap and efficient we took that. Bad move, the system was crippled by engineering work and signal failures so a journey of 20 minutes took 90 minutes. If you are going to Erotica allow plenty of time, just in case.
We need not have been worried about our late arrival. Erotica is small, by all accounts smaller than it has been in recent years. In addition to this some of the little extras, such as decorative banners and inflatables above the stands were missing this year. The hall and upper gallery were only about two thirds filled with exhibitors. The whole of the show is about the same size as one of the medium sized halls at Venus Berlin, a show that sprawls across a number of halls in the Berlin Messe.
What all this means is that we experienced a show exhibiting little atmosphere, except when one of the stages erupted with one of the regular performances. The dancers were great, from solo guys, burlesque and groups of couples to fantastic boy-boy dances and an amazing male pole dancer. But the interludes of excitement when the stages drew your attention served very much to highlight the lack of any real character in the rest of the show.
The reasons for this seem to be partly the small number of visitors but mainly the absence of any real theme. We’ve been to shows where the walkways were regularly brightened up by performers, but the only one we saw, once and at a distance was the pony taxi. Nice, but we didn’t see it close up and it disappeared into the show never to be spotted again.
That is not to say that the companies exhibiting at Erotica were in any way second class. Almost without exception they were showing quality products to a receptive audience.
For example Bound 4 Bondage (bound4bondage.com) and MIV Fetish Furniture (mivfetishfurniture.com) were showing their impressive range of dungeon equipment. All hand made in the UK.
From further afield innovative and incredibly sexy fashion from designer/manufacturers like Anillarte (anillarte.com) grabbed our attention. From Amsterdam the fun-loving Mister B team (misterb.com) were there with their range of sex toys, including the electro-sex violet wands and new Nexus Revo.
And of course there were the usual bevvy of porn starlets Tanya Tate, Angel Long, Katy Kay and Syren Sexton to name but a few.
Talking to the exhibitors we were repeatedly told that footfall was down and that stand prices were too high, making it increasingly difficult to justify the expense of representing your company. With visitor numbers less healthy than in previous years and the costs increasing things don’t sound too good for Erotica.
Erotica needs an injection of life, something to revitalize a once vibrant lifestyle show. Visitor ticket prices need to decrease as does the price of the stands – not something that is easy to achieve, but without this businesses will not show their wares and the punters will have fewer and fewer reasons to pay over their hard earned cash to get through the doors. Then of course there is the vebue. Olympia is great but maybe a location more central to the UK such as the NEC Birmingham would be more appropriate making travel to the even easier and cheaper for people outside London. Just saying …
Being the largest show in the UK Erotica has to be rescued by someone who knows the business and has deep pockets to cover the inevitable losses over the first couple of years. There are a huge number of innovative firms and imaginative people out there and it would be awful if there was no event for them to come together and celebrate their passion and diversity.